The Times A-Changin’ Fighting Abortion - Then and Now Adora Wong
An article by The Day Book, dated 7th June 1915, chronicling an opposition to abortion had the writer term the relevant doctors ‘professional abortionists’ instead of ‘physicians who perform abortions.’ This is somehwhat disturbing as readers could have been easily manipulated into forgetting that the very same physicians also saved lives – since they were not simply abortionists but were professionals, they must have had medical training and as medical professionals they would have first and foremost served to preserve the quality of life. Their status as health care providers should not have been compromised just because they chose to respect the wishes of women who wanted their pregnancies terminated. Also, in only addressing ‘incompetent midwives’ who performed abortions, it remains somewhat unclear if the fight was solely against illegal abortionists or abortionists as a whole – if it was only targeted at those executing unauthorized operations then why were the professional abortionists involved? If it was to oppose abortion in general, why then was it stated that the fight was against ‘illegal operations?’ The writer had termed illegal abortions a ‘slaughter’ – brutal and violent killings. This comes across as a reasonable remark as it is easy to imagine unlicensed workers being rather unrefined about their ‘killings.’ However, if professional abortionists were part of the group being protested against, then ‘slaughter’ would have been too strong a word to be used across the board for their operations would have likely been done in the most humane way possible. Let’s not even get to the point about whether abortions are killings – what’s important is that it was unfair of the writer to have insinuated as such when he/she could have been politically correct about it. Unless, of course, this was an opinion piece, though from the formality of the writing it hardly seems like it. What stands out the most is perhaps that of the usage of ‘afflicted’ – while the pregnant girls who did not wish to continue with their pregnancies were probably, and understandably so, in great distress, the writer was rather bold and presumptuous in assuming that he/she was of a position to label all pregnant girls seeking abortions during that period as afflicted. Is it unreasonable of me to think that the writer was likely a man? In my opinion, a
female writer would not have been as discriminatory and as acerbic with her words for, no matter how different her circumstances, a woman is bound to feel for another woman when concerning the subject of childbirth or abortion.
It is interesting that, unlike today, health officials then were really just ‘health men’ – women have certainly come a long way in integrating into all sectors of the workforce and job titles have been changed to accommodate the involvement of women. The fact that women of wealth and status then possessed the privilege of having their abortions kept secret reflects the kind of damage abortions could do to reputations a century back. While women today would still prefer to keep an operation of such nature secret, the odds of anyone having to go to the extent of lying about the reason behind their hospital admission are fewer and further between for abortions are no longer valid grounds for discrimination – no woman now has to worry about not being able to be employed just because she had made a personal, albeit controversial, decision. In anayzing politics of abortion in the news today, it is evident that much has changed for abortion in the United States as there are now pro-choice camps supporting women who choose to terminate perfectly healthy pregnancies. Furthermore, religious groups are more involved than ever in the fight against legalizing abortions and emergency contraception, such as the morning-after pill, is now considered to be of utmost importance as it will prevent lesser women from being caught in a dilemma of how to do what is ‘right’ – a highly subjective notion since people hold different views and undergo different circumstances.